First Leap is led by Azriel Weaver, a Pittsburgh-based business coach specializing in supporting creative entrepreneurs. Additional guest experts and experienced business owners will join First Leap sessions to share their special insights and experience. Participating entrepreneurs will hone the skills needed to build a solid business foundation and realize meaningful impact in their communities. First Leap guidance is delivered by experts in business fundamentals and experienced creative business owners.

Through an application process, Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator (CBA) will select 15 emerging creative entrepreneurs and guide them through an intensive yet supportive 8-week program, then provide opportunities for ongoing support after the sessions to achieve business goals.

First Leap Virtual Information Session, June 13th, 2023

Join us to learn how this free, innovative program can support creative entrepreneurs who are ready to make their "First Leap."



    • Identifies as an artist, maker, designer, craftsperson, and/or small-batch manufacturer*
    • Has operated a creative business for a minimum of one year (has sold products or services)
    • Has access to a computer and the internet (to attend sessions and complete homework)
    • Aspires to become a full-time creative business owner
    • Able to attend in-person sessions at the CBA’s classroom in Homewood, PA
    • Participating or willing to participate in CBA
    • Agrees to complete pre- and post-program surveys

*Please visit the PA Council on the Arts for samples of creative business types that would likely realize the most success in the First Leap Program


  • BIPOC, women, and/or veteran-owned creative businesses
  • Entrepreneurs living and/or operating a business in low to moderate-income areas
  • Entrepreneurs seeking a loan from Bridgeway Capital
  • Creative businesses with evidence of and/or aspirations for social impact
    — Creating quality jobs
    — Reactivating postindustrial spaces
    — Revitalizing Main Street corridors
    — Elevating underserved populations

Program Benefits and Goals

Phase One: Build the Plan

  • Join an 8-week intensive business development curriculum that emphasizes learning how to identify the right goals for your business, increase sales and visibility, strengthen your brand identity, and how to legitimize your business.
  • Work with a cohort of 15 creative businesses that connect in person over the course of the program and are encouraged to continue peer-to-peer learning and support after the program is
  • Build the framework of a business plan which will help you clearly outline your pathway to growth for the next year and beyond, as well as assist with accessing funding if desired.
  • Graduates of First Leap will be eligible to apply for Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator grants up to $2,000 from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and patient and flexible loan capital from Bridgeway Capital. (Eligibility to apply does not guarantee accessing funds.)

Phase Two: Start the Plan

  • After the 8-week intensive, participants receive 6 months of ongoing support to put their plan into action
  • Participants with business plans will be eligible to apply for Creative Entrepreneur Accelerator grants of up to $2,000 from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and patient and flexible loan capital from Bridgeway Capital. Learn more about the $2,000 Creative Entrepreneurship Accelerator grant (Eligibility to apply does not guarantee access to funds)
  • Work with free business coaches to achieve your business goals
  • Pursue funding opportunities with ongoing support from Bridgeway Capital


The Fall Application Opens June 1, 2023

Apply June 1 - July 3 2023 for the Fall session.


Fall Session Dates

Thursday Evenings

From 6:00pm – 8:00pm

August 10th – September 28th

(Hybrid) Virtual and In-person

First Leap is a hybrid program where the core technical sessions will be held virtually, while the first and last sessions (graduation) will be held in person. These in-person gatherings will be held at the Creative Business Accelerator’s new office space at 901 Hay Street, in the Wilkinsburg Train Station.  The program will end with a culminating graduation event and celebration where participants will show their hard work and accomplishments in a 5-minute presentation. Participants are expected to attend all seven learning sessions and complete assignments outside of classroom time. First Leap requires, on average, 5-8 hours a week to participate.

Session Topics

The Entrepreneurial Mindset & Setting Goals

In-person at 7800 Susquehanna St.
Thursday, August 10, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Program overview & expectations
  • The entrepreneurial mindset
  • Developing Goals
  • Visioning

Mission & Values/Defining Your Products and Customers

Thursday, August 17, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Defining your “why”
  • Evaluating your products and services
  • Identifying your target market
  • Building Customer Personas

Branding & Marketing

Thursday, August 24, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Marketing 101
  • Reaching Customers
  • Branding & Style Guides

Marketing & Sales Channels

Thursday, August 31, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Marketing 201
  • Sales Channels & Sales Funnels
  • Choosing the right channel for you

Legal & Operational Considerations

Thursday, September 7, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Entity formation
  • Contracts
  • Key Partners, advisors, and technology for creative businesses
  • Business Best Practices

Basic Finances & Taxes

Thursday, September 14, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Assessing your financial needs
  • Understanding budgeting and forecasting
  • Cash flow management
  • Introduction to financial statements and financial management

Funding Your Business & The Pitch

Thursday, September 21, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • Understanding funding sources
  • Grant opportunities
  • Preparing for opportunities
  • Perfecting your pitch

Presentations & Graduation

In-Person at the Wilkinsburg Train Station
Thursday, September 28, 2023
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • First Leap participants, facilitators, and mentors gather to share and celebrate growth
  • Participants share their presentations
  • Time to mix and mingle, enjoying the successful completion of First Leap.

Check out Past First Leap Participants

The Creative Business Accelerator

The CBA helps creative businesses grow their businesses in ways that support equitable economic development. Questions? Contact us to start a conversation.

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